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Abhinandan Varthaman: What a dog fight that was with Pakistan

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New Delhi, Nov 22: Indian Air Force ace pilot Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was accorded the Vir Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind today. He was accorded the Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft during aerial combat on February 27, 2019, a day after the Balakot airstrike.

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Abhinandan Varthaman: What a dog fight that was with Pakistan

To avenge the attack at Pulwama, India hit the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror facility at Balakot on February 26 2019. A day later on February 27 2019, the entire nation went through some tense moments, when an Indian Air Force pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan.

On February 27 2019, 24 fighter jets took off from Pakistan and flew towards India. These included the US made F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The Indian Air Forces, Netra Surveillance system detected 10 F-16s taking off from airbases in Pakistan.

The IAF swung into action and scrambled the MiG 21 Bisons, Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and Mirage 2000s.
ndia sent out an alert message to Pakistan asking them to return. As per protocol India sounded a second alert, but the Pakistan jets entered Indian airspace.

Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is a father of two children, who graduated from National Defense Academy in Kadakvasla. Prior to his foray into national defense, he was a student in Sainik Welfare school in Amaravathi Nagar, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

The IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan after an air combat. The aerial combat that led to his capture was a testament to the commanders Moxey who stuck to his guns and remained undeterred in his duty to protect the Indian air Space from invasion.

The borders were on high alert and by around 9.45 am on Wednesday, the radars picked up blips of a possible intrusion. At around 10.00 hours, three F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force violated Indian air space and entered into the Nowshera sector and dropped bombs. The IAF got into action and scrambled its MiG 21s squadron.

Wing Commander Abhinandan took off in one of the MiG 21 Bisons. The operation was not going to be an easy one as Abhinandan was flying a vintage MiG Bison in comparison to the advanced F-16s. It's akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight but it's the knife that he had and he had to wield it to the best of his ability.

Pakistan's target was to engage the Indian Brigade HQ and Army Installations. The Indian Air Force scrambled jets to take on the incoming fighters. Two MiG 21s were sent from Srinagar and the Sukhoi 30 MKI went airborne. The MiG 21 flown by Abhinandan managed to reach the spot in time to intercept one F-16 D Wing Commander Abhinandan remained steadfast in his mission, stayed in hot pursuit of a Pakistani F-16 jet, which he eventually engaged with an R-73 air to air missile. The Pakistani Air Force strike package also had four Mirage-3 aircraft and four Chinese made JF-17 Thunder fighters to escort the F-16s.

It was clearly a risky proposition, he could have turned away at any given moment. However, the Commander had a job to do, a country he had sworn to protect, and he wasn't about to quit. He valiantly pursued the Pakistani aircraft, despite, the dire warning issued by another aircraft part of the Indian formation about the presence of Pakistani fighters. He continued the hot pursuit and locked the F-16 on his radar. He pushed home the attack and fired an R-73 air to air missile. While this brought the F-16 down, it also exposed Abhinandan's wing to PAF missile, following which he was forced to eject and land into the Pakistan side of the Line of Control where he was captured.

Pakistan was clearly looking to hit Indian military installations, but due to the heroic feat by Wing Commander Abhinandan and the presence of the Indian Air Force, Pakistan missed all the targets.

Before being captured the brave-heart displayed the utmost courage, resilience and did not give in easily. He fought his captors, fired in the air, swallowed important documents before it could get into the enemy's hands.

He did all this while he was profusely bleeding after the incident. He was surrounded by the locals who were threatening to attack him. He fired some gunshots but to no avail. He then jumped into a pond where he pulled out the documents and maps. He swallowed some and the rest he soaked into the water, ensuring that the enemy got nothing from him.

Abhinandan who has been around the air force block for 16 years, is from Chennai. He is the son of a decorated former fighter pilot, Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman. Abhinandan joined the National Defence Academy in 2000 and was commissioned as a fighter pilot in 2004. He was as a Su30MKI pilot before he started flying the MiG21s.

Abhinandan always drew inspiration from his father, who was commissioned as a fighter pilot in 1973.

He has to his credit nearly 4,000 flying hours. Varthaman senior commanded the Western Sector during Operation Parakrama in 2001, the military buildup after the Parliament attack.

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